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Amber’s Birth Story – Managing Pain with Nitrous Oxide

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Amber’s Birth Story – Managing Pain with Nitrous Oxide

As Amber Hummel neared the final months of first pregnancy, she began thinking more about what her birth plan would be. There are many options for delivery methods and pain management, but what stood out the most came from a conversation with a girlfriend living in Great Britain, who spoke about her experience delivering both of her babies with nitrous oxide as her only form of pain management.

Amber searched fruitlessly to find a hospital offering nitrous oxide for labor and delivery and came to the disappointing realization that, despite its many benefits (such as reducing pain and anxiety, being non-narcotic, safe for the baby and being completely self-administered), it has not yet become widely used in the United States.

Thankfully, Amber’s mother, Laurie, is the maternal-fetal transport program coordinator for Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC) and was able to share that its Women’s Center offers nitrous oxide, and is the only hospital in the region that does. It was at that moment that Amber made her final decision to deliver at PVHMC.

On December 26, Amber was excitedly admitted to our labor and delivery unit. She soon learned that her baby boy was in the occiput posterior position, commonly called “sunny side up,” meaning that his skull was pushing against her pelvis and back. This position caused her to have severe back spasms and extreme pain as she labored.

“I’d never felt so much pain in my life,” says Amber. “It was unreal to the point that I wanted to tap out and just have a C-section.”

Since she wasn’t dilated enough to receive an epidural, her care team suggested that she try nitrous oxide for her pain management. Without hesitation, Amber was soon set up with the equipment needed to help her breathe in relief.

“There was a slight learning curve to time the nitrous oxide inhalations with my contractions,” says Amber. “But it is such an amazing tool and so manageable – I don’t know how I would have pushed through the pain without it.”

Amber adds that she appreciated that the nitrous oxide gas wore off quickly, within two minutes of inhalation, because it allowed her to remain present and move easily into more comfortable positions. She had read that other pain medications, such as morphine, can take up to two hours or more to wear off.

After she reached more than 7 centimeters dilation, she received her epidural and soon after, safely delivered a healthy baby boy, Cooper, on December 27, 2021.

Looking back at her birth plan, Amber says that she highly recommends women to look into nitrous oxide for labor pain and would absolutely use it again.

We’re thrilled to welcome baby Cooper into our PVHMC family!